One of the exciting dive sites in the beautiful Maldives is Sunlight Thila, located at the inner southeast North Male Atoll. Dives here are “manta dives” since the main attraction is a host of majestic manta rays, about 10 or more, circling the waters. The best way to view them is from below, kneeling on the ocean floor looking up.
The Maldives is simply paradise on earth. It is a country of pristine white beaches and lagoons with palm trees leaning towards the Indian Ocean as though waiting to be photographed. The turquoise waters are crystal clear and perfectly calm. From above, the candy-color reefs are visible because the waters are aquarium-like clear. The place becomes more magical with chirping birds in the background and friendly local women dancing to the beat of traditional drums. This picture of paradise is not just in one beach. What’s really amazing in the Maldives is that it offers several equally stunning beaches, lagoons, resorts, and dive spots in its many islands that form a total of 27 atolls. About a hundred coral reef islands have been developed and are now made available by the Maldivian government as tourist islands, and each island is simply amazing. In all, however, the archipelago has a total of 1,192 islands, only 200 of which are inhabited. Looking from above, the chain of islands looks like a garland, which is why early seafarers called them the “maldiv”, which means “flower island.” Marco Polo referred to it as the “flower of the Indies” while Ibn Batuta, “one of the wonders of the world.”
(Ibn Batuta was a Moroccan traveler and explorer who many consider was the greatest traveler in the 14th Century.)
Today, the islands are regularly visited by 500 thousand foreign tourists every year, and according to records, most of them are repeat visitors. People can’t seem to get enough of the Maldivian magic. Since the archipelago was once a British territory, it is more popular in Europe than in other continents. Several airlines, including private planes, regularly fly people in and out of the Male International Airport, the only international airport in the islands.
The capital city is Male, and the thousands of visitors that come have to pass by here before proceeding to their resort destinations. Resorts and hotels arrange pickup using speedboats, seaplanes, or the traditional wooden boats called “dhoni.” There are tons of Class A resorts for the rich and famous. A number of Hollywood stars have made that luxurious Maldivian vacation and the list includes George Clooney, Kate Moss, Jennifer Aniston, Sting, Liz Hurley, Mick Jagger, Cindy Crawford, Rod Steward, and power-couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, to name a few.
While these A-List Hollywood stars most likely spent their vacation simply relaxing by the gorgeous beaches, the more adventurous tourists plunge into the many majestic dive sites, one of which is Sunlight Thila. Sunlight Thila is made up of two small reefs that attract the giant manta rays. The best months to come here are from March to October, when there are plenty of fish feeding on the drifting planktons. The currents are a bit challenging, so only intermediate and expert divers are encouraged to come.